The Crusaders got their Rebel Sport Super 14 pre-season campaign off to a winning start with a 24-19 victory over the Western Force in Perth on Friday night.
With the match played in three 30-minute thirds in front of a sell-out 17,000 crowd at the Members Equity Stadium, the Western Force were leading 19-17 until the start the final third when Crusaders wing Kade Poki went over for a try which was converted by Hamish Gard for the final 24-19 scoreline.
Flanker George Whitelock had got the Crusaders off to a perfect start with a try in the first minute before the Western Force struck back with a penalty try, awarded for a push on Drew Mitchell.
Josh Tatupu scored another try to give the Western Force a 12-5 lead at the end of the first third and the Aussie team stretched their lead in the second third with a try to Luke Holmes which was converted by Scott Daruda.However, the Crusaders struck back with another try to George Whitelock, converted by Colin Slade, and wing Jared Payne kept the momentum going for the Crusaders with a try to narrow the gap to 19-17 at the end of the second third.
Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder was satisfied with the hit-out."The first game's under the belt now and the guys displayed everything that we are looking for," he said. "They showed a lot of desire and physical ability and they tried a few new concepts which us coaches have been introducing to them. Not everything was perfect but the desire was there.
"We were a bit scratchy early. There was a lot of enthusiasm and they were probably trying too hard. We absorbed a lot of pressure and clawed our way back to win the game which was very impressive."
Blackadder said no new injury concerns came out of the match, apart from a few minor cuts.